Logic Taught by Love/Chapter 13
THE REDEMPTION OF EVIL
"The Bow shall be a Token."
A trifling but interesting confirmation of the Pulsation-doctrine is to be found in a singular fact connected with Art-Needlework.
Nervous disorder, at least in its beginnings, has polar or antithetic phases. A fit of excitement is followed by one of depression, etc. These aberrant moods affect, in some degree, the colour-sense. Let any patient, who has a sensitive retina but no knowledge of Art, try the following experiment:—
Collect a mass of scraps of silks and ribbon, and a bundle of embroidery-silks or wools, of as many shades as possible. (Any soiled or faded remnants of skeins will answer). In the excited mood, tack scraps of ribbon, etc., quite at random, on to some soft foundation (such as a bit of soft woollen or cotton stuff). Choose always whatever colour pleases the eye at the moment,
A few days later, when the mood has changed, the patient should look at her work. The colouring will probably appear, even to herself, hideously crude and coarse. Then begin to embroider upon it, choosing whatever colour pleases the eye. Before selecting a needleful, fix the eyes for a few moments on the spot which seems most crude; then, suddenly, look into the heap of silks and take whatever colour is found most refreshing, embroidering over the selected spot freely and at random. Before threading the needle again, fix the eyes on whatever spot now seems crudest, and choose a needleful while the eye is annoyed from gazing at that one, and so on. Continue to embroider, in any stitches that suit the hand, in all various moods and in different phases of health, till the whole has been brought to a condition in which it does not offend the eye in any mood.
Experts in needlework, when they see work produced under these conditions, say that it has (however rough in execution) the peculiar stamp of colouring which distinguishes old Eastern embroideries from all modern imitations, whether Eastern or European, even the most skilful.
After a time, the worker acquires the power to produce at will this peculiar colouring; and can produce it in normal health, and apply it to work containing some principle of design. But, so far as I have discovered, no one seems able to acquire it except by working, at first, at random; and either during illness, or when worried or fatigued. No one can possibly acquire it except by keeping the first few attempts by her for a long time, and working patiently and repeatedly over the same ground. The acquring of skill is much facilitated by the following method.
During the first crude colouring, think freely and strongly of exciting subjects. (This would be dangerous, but for the correction to be presently indicated.) Think of some exciting topic before choosing a colour; and, while using that colour, try to register on the memory, in connection with that particular silk, the thoughts present during its selection. When looking at a crude spot for the purpose of correction, recall the thoughts registered on it; and, before choosing the silk to correct with, try to formulate what some person, who totally disagrees with the worker, would say on the special point associated with that spot.
Of course no silly woman would be capable of this vigorous moral exercise. But any one brave enough to subject herself to it, will find health returning and mental vigour increasing at a marvellously rapid rate. Great progress in colour-skill may also be attained by it; but a few simple rules must be adhered to.
Colour freely by the mere sensuous impulse of the eye, thinking meanwhile of something quite different, and paying no heed to any previously learned theories of Art.
Get the form, as much as possible, by the motion of the hand, not looking at the needle-point. Use the eye only to select colour, and then to keep the work within certain bounds. The practice of following with the needle lines traced on the material with a pen or chalk is fatal to colour inspiration (not necessarily to colour knowledge); as the retina, fatigued by unnatural exercise, loses its sensitiveness to immediate colour-impulses.
If any tracing be used, let the design be as simple as possible, and purely Geometric. Trace on the back of the material, and run a thread through to the front. This thread will not need to be absolutely covered, as it can be afterwards removed.
If gold thread be used, wind it first on a reel, till it takes a curved set; shake it off the reel, and use the natural coils into which it falls, arranging these to please the fancy. Avoid using gold over a tracing. Some of the very ancient curves of Indian Art occur naturally when Japanese gold is shaken off a reel.
If the hand is stiff, it may be loosened and trained into tune with Nature's formative processes by the practice of drawing the Pentagram and Heptagram. I have the sanction of Dr. Maudsley for the opinion (which is confirmed by my experience) that this exercise is eminently suited to produce, in the muscles of the hand, a kind of automatic skill, a consonance with Nature's growth-processes, such as might well seem to primeval peoples miraculous. The copying of actual forms puts the hand into harmony with certain accidental outcomes of Nature's Laws; the Pentagram is an Algebraization of Nature's processes of development.
A good test whether the hand is properly in tune with Nature, consists in feather-stitching an irregular spray, in coarse silk, with the eyes shut. The spray so produced should be as natural-looking as anything that could be done with the eyes open.
I speak here of Needlework, that being the Art with which I am familiar; but similar principles to those above explained have been applied to colour-study with the brush. The fact that it is possible, by utilizing the polarity of nervous disease, to produce the peculiar old-Eastern colouring, and at the same time to facilitate cure by unifying the antithetic phases, throws light, I think, on the attitude of the Peutateuch writers, both towards colour-and-form Art, and towards the question of Atonement of error by return to the Unseen Unity. The Third Commandment might, I think, be for some persons paraphrased thus:—
When angry, do not indulge in blasphemous exclamations, or in wanton and exaggerated statements ; but learn to curse and swear in colours. This will relieve your feelings as much as bad language could do, and will neither offend your neighbours nor injure yourself. It can be made a means of curing whatever evil tendencies may be latent in your nature, by employing them in the development of Artistic faculty. And be sure that God will bless every attempt to put yourself into line with His Creative energy; and will, sooner or later, punish every expression of evil which has no tendency to further its redemption to the service of Good and Unity.
There are those who smile at any serious treatment of so trivial a pursuit as Embroidery. But how can a woman be sure that she has truly grasped philosophic principles, unless she can employ them to improve feminine and domestic occupations? A wise man once asked: "How many angels stand on the point of a needle?" It is not recorded of any wise man that he was conceited enough to fancy that question could be lightly answered. The Father of the Calculus cautioned his readers not to despise The Infinitesimal; and a greater teacher even than Newton assured us that The Almighty does not disdain to reckon such trifles as the hairs on our heads. The Lord's People, of old, were encouraged to revel in mingling Gold and Blue and Purple and Scarlet; because it was felt that the combination of all incongruous colours into one harmonious Rainbow is a token (all the surer for being intangible and evanescent) that the Forces of destruction which threaten to overwhelm man shall be restrained for the salvation of those who trust in the Unity of God. For the Hebrew, the Rainbow was to be a token that God would interpose at last on behalf of His People. But our Father Odin taught that the Rainbow is a bridge, by trusting to which a brave soul can, on its own feet, so to speak, reach the home of the Divine.